Ladbroke Grove, W11


Ladbroke Grove is the main street in London W11.

The story of the first, southern part of Ladbroke Grove dates back to the 1820s.

Much of the area was owned by the Ladbroke family who also had holdings in Kensington. In 1821, a nephew of the family, James Weller inherited the estate, and according to the conditions of the will of his uncle was forced to change his name to James Weller Ladbroke. He put in train the project to build up the area with Victorian town houses for the gentry.

Large parts of this area became the scene of a layout quite unlike anything previously, or indeed subsequently, to be found in London. Building development was spread over some fifty years, between 1821 and the mid 1870s, but the most intense activity took place between 1840 and 1868. Half-a-dozen architects and a rather larger number of major speculators were all involved in the evolution of the layout.

Under the terms of his uncle's will James Weller Ladbroke could only grant leases of up to twenty-one years' duration. Encouraged, no doubt, by the tremendous building boom of the early 1820s Ladbroke and his advisers obtained power by a private Act of Parliament of 1821 to grant ninety-nine-year leases. Ladbroke's surveyor, Allason, was granted a number of leases in 1824 and 1827.

Allason's first task after the passing of the Act of 1821 was to prepare a plan for the layout of the main portion of the estate. As well as being unusually large, the Ladbroke Estate possessed unusually varied contours, and its layout therefore presented an architect such as Allason, a specialist in landscape design, with an unique opportunity.

In his plan of 1823, Allason provided a broad straight road (originally known as Ladbroke Place and now as Ladbroke Grove) leading northward off the Uxbridge road for some 700 yards, up over the knoll where St. John's Church now stands and about half way down the further side. Not far from its southern end this thoroughfare was crossed at right angles by an east-west road called Weller Street East and West (now Ladbroke Road). The most striking feature of the design was, however, the enormous circus, some 560 yards in diameter and about one mile in circumference, which was to be laid out to the north of this intersection.

It took nearly fifty years to find buyers for all the houses, and the succession of grinding halts brought ruin to the main developers. But Allason’s design evolved unscathed. Indeed, the ruin of successive developers only added variety to the layout. There were classical groves alternating with tiers of leafy crescents, stucco villas alternating with plain brick terraces. The great spire of St John's loomed over the plane trees like an obelisk in a park. And everywhere there were gardens, private and half private, hidden and half hidden, glimpses of knolls and leafy dells, as though the real country began only a few steps beyond the last back door.

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